The works in the Media Burn Archive cover all sorts of topics, but they share important qualities: all were produced by independent videomakers outside of corporate contexts; they engage with the issues and concerns of ordinary people, both locally and nationally; they teach us about the world around us and the unifying characteristics of humanity; and they demonstrate artistry, skill, and creativity in the art of videomaking. They encompass many types of works, from documentary to animation to narrative, but they all share a spirit of innovation and creativity that sets them apart from the crowd.
The collection features hundreds of disparate and fascinating subjects, among them musicians, mayors, sports legends, radio personalities, community leaders, and neighborhood festivals. In addition to hundreds of award-winning documentaries, much of the collection is composed of camera original footage—uncut audiovisual primary sources capturing people, places, and events of cultural and historical significance. In 2008 and again in 2012, our Chicago Collection was recognized as a part of “America’s documentary heritage essential to understanding our democracy, history, and culture” by the National Archives with preservation grants. In 2011, we were again recognized by federal agencies with a “Save America’s Treasures” grant, administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities.